A disappointing season came to an end for the Buffalo Beauts on Friday night with a 5-3 loss to Connecticut at the Northtown Center in the NWHL play-in game.
It will be the first season since the league’s inception in 2015 that Buffalo will not be in the championship game. The Beauts finish the season at 8-16-1. Connecticut improves to 3-20-1 and will challenge top-seeded Boston on Sunday in the semifinals.
Corinne Buie, Mikyla Grant-Mentis and Megan Delay scored for Buffalo. Buie’s goal came early in the game to establish a 1-0 lead. As Buffalo’s defense remained stout, it looked as if the Beauts would close out the Whale just as they had five times this season.
Instead, Connecticut began to fight back. Hanna Beattie and Katelynn Russ each scored unassisted to put the visitors up 2-1 over Buffalo at the end of the first period.
Grant-Mentis knotted the game up at two just over four minutes into the second period. Since she was signed at the end of February, she logged three points in two games.
Buffalo couldn’t take advantage of the momentum. Connecticut took the lead again on a power-play goal from Russ, and Beattie added her second goal of the night soon after that.
When a good chance presented itself to Buffalo, it would often be smothered by first-year Whale goalie Brooke Wolejko. She finished with 28 saves on 31 shots. Other times, a Buffalo shot went just wide.
Buffalo began to rally the troops late in the third period, down 4-2. With four minutes to spare, Delay went top shelf to bring the Beauts within one goal with just under four minutes left to play.
The teams each took minor penalties for a 4-on-4 period of time. However, the Whale overwhelmed the Buffalo zone and Allie Lacombe put the game away with less than a minute to spare, poking the puck past Buffalo’s Lea-Kristine Demers.
Also Sunday, the NWHL playoffs continue when the Metropolitan Riveters take on the Minnesota Whitecaps at 1:30 p.m.